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Anhydrous theft leads to police chase

An anhydrous theft led to a police chase late Thursday night, the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office reported.

A deputy was patrolling Ag-Partners Cooperative in Bellechester just before midnight when he noticed a vehicle parked near the anhydrous tanks. The sheriff's department has been watching the cooperative more closely since an anhydrous theft was reported in September, Sheriff Scott McNurlin said.

When the deputy approached the vehicle, it fled quickly, McNurlin said. Because of various traffic violations, the deputy "had probable cause to stop the car," McNurlin said, and the deputy tried to initiate a traffic stop.

But the vehicle fled out of Bellechester and into Wabasha County on County Road 7.

The car hit a stop sign as the driver attempted to turn onto 670th Street, entered the ditch and came to rest in a field.

McNurlin said the vehicle's two occupants fled on foot. A Minnesota State Patrol helicopter with night vision equipment was called to assist with the search, but neither occupant was located.

Deputies found tubes and funnels -- which could be used to steal anhydrous -- in the back seat of the vehicle, but they did not locate any stolen anhydrous Thursday night.

On Friday morning, a resident found a plastic container in or near Bellechester, McNurlin said. The man opened the container and suffered watery eyes and burning lungs, he said. The man was not treated, but recovered on his own.

Sheriff's deputies continue investigating the incident and are trying to locate the vehicle's two occupants.

"Obviously there's more here at stake than just the simple fleeing," he said.

McNurlin added that anyone who finds a "suspicious" container should not pick it up, but report it to law enforcement. He added that anhydrous containers can be metal or plastic -- anything from coolers to five-pound grill cylinders -- and may have corrosion around the top.

"Do not open it. Do not pick it up," McNurlin said. "Let law enforcement know."

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.